According to a scholar in Leadership studies, Dr John C. Maxwell, “Everything rises and falls on leadership”. In other words, dreams of nations and possibilities of realising such dreams for individuals and communities, among others, are largely outcomes of effective and inspiring leadership.
To demonstrate the consequence of leadership, which largely determines the direction of the pendulum; getting the right leadership amounts to a halfway victory. The stage of development in a country is a clear indicator of the quality of leadership at play.
A nation devoid of good leaders suffers the consequences of stalled growth. Good quality leadership is a tonic for development and human progress. The passionate intensity deployed by visionary and inspiring leaders to drive followers for unimaginable accomplishments remains the plank upon which the common good is realised.
Excellent leadership thrives on common values shared by members in communities, nations or other groups under consideration. The success of a group is largely dependent on the commitments for these shared values. When reward systems are skewed to favour those who are determined to game the system, so long will discordant tunes remain a barrier in encouraging unity of purpose.
Despite the enormous natural resources in Nigeria, the level of development remains an embarrassing reflection of poor leadership. The bane of this is hinged on what Dr. Myles Munroe describes as the incapacity of leadership “to influence others through inspiration, motivated by passion, generated by vision, produced by a conviction, ignited by a purpose”.
What drives purposeful leadership in all contexts is vision, goals and purposeful influence. When leaders are able to walk and work on templates shared by all within the confines of law, the road to the peak of growth becomes easy and achievable. However, when those visions and goals are not agreed upon, but subjected to selfish interests; the citizens are left alone as power wielders embark on lonely journeys in search of selfish goals.
While bad leadership can be foisted on the overall majority, enlightened followers may become an opposition against leaders opposed to the common good. Despite attaining political independence in October 1960, Nigeria has remained a nation battered by corrupt leadership, thereby forcing the country to slip down the slippery slope of frightening uncertainties. Over three decades of political independence from the British colonial masters, Nigeria remains an embarrassing metaphor on the destructive capacity of bad leadership.
The incapacity by leaders to entrench transparency in public governance has opened the floodgate for corruption to thrive in all spheres of human endeavours. The quality of leaders is not only frowned upon in the corridors of political power, other realms have not been spared the monstrous destruction of anti-people leadership. More than any time in the history of our country, our leaders have become our albatross in our vision to excel. While the worship of Mammon has become entrenched and accepted by an epicurean populace, Nigeria recently overtook India as the Global Headquarters of Poverty. As our nation hit the bottom of the dark hole of the insatiable quest of greedy leaders, political power wielders are now the monsters of corrupt leadership working against national development.
For a nation that has been turned into a nightmare of human indignities, the glaring incapacity to have our nation recalibrated to play its manifested destiny in the comity of nations drives the urgency of speedy re-assessment of leadership capabilities. Not a few are thoroughly convinced that only an urgent review of leadership could provide us a new roadmap for a new paradigm shift in raising visionary leaders for our nation’s future.
In the vanguard for assessing leadership for its roles in influencing transparency in governance, including raising future leaders, is the Nigerian Prize for Leadership (NPL), an initiative by some eminent elders, statesmen and women, “that recognises outstanding acts of leadership based on a clearly defined Nigerian paradigm, at various levels of society and human interest”.
Describing the true price of leadership as the willingness to place the needs of others above that of the leader, the NLP asserts that “great leaders truly care about those they are privileged to lead and understand that the true cost of the leadership privilege comes at the expense of self-interest”.
In promoting the emergence of true leadership, the NLP’s major objective is to “identify and celebrate distinguished Nigerians who can be projected as national leadership symbols and role models for young Nigerians”. Targeting leaders in public office and creating an opportunity to raise new leaders for the future, the prize-awarding outfit is interested in getting Nigerian citizens who have demonstrated “remarkable and sustainable prowess, success, creativity, and exemplary leadership skills in their endeavours through compelling acts of personal, corporate, ethical, and social values and sacrifices”.
The nomination process for the NLP winner begins with an announcement by the Governing Board. Thereafter, a Technical Team of Experts (TTE) is constituted to set out appropriate criteria and guidelines for the measurement and assessment of nominees/entries; commencement of nationwide call for entries and nominations of candidates that are based on criteria and guidelines approved by the Board; collation of entries and nominations by the Secretariat for Assessment and Recommendation Panel (ARP); presentation of the best three entries/nominees by ARP to the Governing Board for consideration and invitation of the three finalists for the Prize Presentation Ceremony.
In order to ensure a credible process for the NPL winner, one of the compelling conditions is that the winner must have “in character and deeds, demonstrated true leadership excellence in their fields through outstanding performances relevant to the development of the people and the nation”. This is done to ensure that younger generations of leaders are inspired to acquire “purposeful leadership skills, tools and experiences for sustainable human development and nation building”.
Unlike in some prize-awarding outfits where recipients are subjected to underhand maneuvers, the processes leading to the maiden NPL winner is transparently done devoid of any form of encumbrances. Though the former Executive Secretary of the Tertiary Trust Fund (TETFund), Professor Suleiman Elias Bogoro, was named the NLP Inaugural Award Winner in 2021, he was not available for the investiture ceremony until 2022.
The choice of Professor Bogoro as the inaugural recipient of the NPL winner is described by many who attended the investiture ceremony as fitting, considering his sterling footprints when he served as the boss of the Fund that breathed hope in many tertiary schools in terms of infrastructural development and rallying research and development efforts as a catalyst for advancing the excellence of Knowledge Economy for national development.
Against the backdrop of multifarious problems haranguing Nigeria, consummate intellectuals like Prof Bogoro hold the flame of what good leadership, coupled with personal sacrifice, can do for our country in search for a new paradigm shift in leadership recruitment. His signature project on research at the TETFund has turned scholars into award-winning researchers, not just to earn the next promotion, but to engage in advancing the Knowledge Economy for advancement.
Recalling the essence of true leadership clothed in human service, Prof Bogoro sees servant leadership as the best form of leadership that inspires the people for overall development. According to him, “All my years in the service of my country; I have come to the irrevocable conclusion that Servant Leadership is the best form of Leadership. Leaders achieve so much when they sacrifice for the common good of humanity”.
With the inauguration of the new administration, headed by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the government should work towards getting true leaders whose focus is not on the next elections but on improving the fortunes of the people and inspiring new generations of leaders who must avoid the present leadership failings.
Confronting the present leadership quagmire is the only recipe in serving the greater interests of the overall majority. Political partisanship is sure to divide us as a people, but collaboration and identifying with morally sound leaders, who are committed to the common good, can take us through the staircase of progress. We must pull down the ancient altars built by self-serving leaders and erect new altars that put public interest above the interest of the man and woman who wields authourity.